Monday, November 4, 2013

dallas buyers club

Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y was a moving film about a young, asthmatic gay teen in a family of brothers vying for the affection and ideals of his mother and father.  Filled with excellent choices in music from Patsy Cline, Rolling Stones and David Bowie, Vallée's coming-of-age tale was a sensitive and sensuous work.  Unfortunately it was forgotten that year here in the states but did fare well in native Canada where it scored ten Genie Awards.  His latest film will probably get more attention due to the amazing transformational showcases for stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.  It's been a labor of love for screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, the project in limbo for over twenty years (how ridiculous). Set in the mid-eighties, in Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a homophobic electrician and bull-riding enthusiast from Texas, who gets AIDS.  After nearly dying from taking doctor recommended AZT, he travels to Mexico to look for another treatment.  He soon brings back a stockpile of vitamins and peptides to America and begins a business out of a rented motel room selling $400 a month memberships to the sick and dying of anti-virals smuggled around the world.

McConaughey dives into the role, with his much-publicized weight loss.  He's gotten a fair amount of praise lately for dissing his typically bland heartthrob roles for risky, interesting choices from sleazy strip club ringleader in Magic Mike to sleazy Texan prosecutor in Bernie to the complicated, on-the-lam figure in Mud.  The performance here doesn't feel as stagey as one might think and it's definitely the best of his career: its ferociousness, physicality and the defiance and underlying tragedy of the character end up trumping the shortcomings of the film.  Vallée employs tricks--cutting sound effects and shaky cam (the photography is by Yves Bélanger who lensed Laurence Anyways)--too often to try to get us closer to Woodroof when McConaughey is doing enough work as is. Jared Leto is surprisingly effective as Woodroof's unlikely business partner Rayon.  There is controversy that the role should have been given to a trans actor, which I agree with, but Leto ends up doing a really wonderful job at capturing Rayon.  It's a detailed, effective performance.  Playing far against type but never gimmicky or overreaching, Leto and McConaughey are well-matched throughout and their first hospital room meeting is where the movie finally takes flight. Unfortunately too much of the film ends up focusing on Jennifer Garner's Dr. Eve Saks, a woman who is sympathetic to Woodroof's plight but recognizes all the risks he's taking.  I was distracted by Garner's flatness and her line readings which sometimes landed with a thud.  Everything about her seemed so non-80s as well, from her hair and wardrobe to her television set, where everybody else including unsung Deneen Tyler, excellent and believable as Woodroof's assistant despite having few lines, seemed so of the locale and of the time.  Dallas Buyers Club is another tough movie in the tradition of The Accused and North Country of undeniably important subject matter (here, a vital time in a recent era that seems swept under the rug that really shouldn't be) where the performances are much stronger than the script and directorial choices. One should also see last year's doc How to Survive a Plague which gave a shattering, in-depth look at the fight and activism over AIDS and the government's outrageous, shocking lack of alarm and response and its shunning of research and treatments. ***

-Jeffery Berg

Interesting article on Woodroof's family members, who aren't depicted in the film.

And one on the film's accuracy.

1 comment:

  1. I missed it this weekend but will try to catch a screening after work tonight! Thanks for an-always in-depth, thoughtful and great review! I am looking forward to seeing it.